Dick Harmon: Former BYU QB Jim McMahon's brain in hands of inventor of the MRI

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 6:00 a.m. MST

Let's pray he makes the right read now that it really counts.

Jim McMahon keeps giving updates to his fans that he’s begun treatments to ward off pain and the early onset of dementia after a career filled with blows to his head and brain.

Hope for the former BYU and Chicago Bears quarterback is in the hands of renowned New York doctor Raymond Damadian this week. Damadian invented the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989.

McMahon told reporters in Chicago his doctor has a stand-up MRI machine and that he has “some type of blockage” in the neck area, where the cerebral fluid is blocked and is backing up into the brain.

“Just diagnosing that, once this is resolved, that should take care of a lot of my problems,” McMahon said. The treatments began Nov. 11. “My memory should come back. I am very excited,” McMahon told the Joliet Herald News.

The treatment is non-invasive and will center on shifting the vertebrae. “When people get brain injuries or trauma, you have to look at the whole spine, not just the brain,” said McMahon, who was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in September, a story that centered on his memory issues.

McMahon is a character for sure. His antics, his playmaking, his leadership in helping the Chicago Bears win a Super Bowl remain part of football legend.

I wish him well.

McMahon is truly an enigma. He’s got that outrageous side, and he’s got a gentle, compassionate, almost Robin Hood aspect to his character.

I remember back in the early 1980s, KOVO’s Larson Bennett invited me to cohost a radio show in Provo, and our first guest was to be McMahon. We got a hold of him and invited him to join us after football practice via phone.

Fifteen minutes into the program, McMahon pulled up in his green Plymouth Duster, walked into the station and spent more than half an hour graciously answering questions and giving his opinions. We were a little stunned. The station was located in the boonies and this was before the days of GPS, and our show was nothing really, no reputation, no track record and no history or marketing, and a phone call would have sufficed.

Behind the scenes over the years, McMahon took on a personal battle to lift the burden of a downtrodden family in Pleasant Grove. It never got much publicity, but he saved that family.

A few weeks ago, McMahon was the guest speaker at the 36th annual University of St. Francis Brown and Gold Banquet at the Patrick J. Sullivan Recreation Center in Chicago.

Organizers, knowing his reputation for flamboyance and outrageousness, and the fact he’s been front and center in an NFL Players Association battle to gain attention and perhaps compensation for head trauma injuries by players, didn’t know what to expect.

Someone said, on a scale of 1 to 10, they hoped McMahon would be a 2 or 3.

He delivered a 10, according to a report in the Chicago Herald-News. He was funny, entertaining and held the audience spellbound with his stories of playing with the Bears and his college days. McMahon signed hundreds of autographs that night, and a live auction for a round of golf with him at Rich Harvest Farms brought in $5,000 to the athletic budget.

Such is the power of charity. That was the night McMahon did what he usually has done on the field. Just delivered.

McMahon had 18 surgeries during his NFL and college career, and he told the audience, “I pretty much glow in the dark.”

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